Updated: Jun 22, 2021
One of the key pillars of great crisis management is the development of worst-case scenarios. This skill has two contexts:
In your enterprise risk assessment for the purpose of understanding what can go wrong and how bad it could be, and
During the management of a crisis to be ready for whatever could happen next.
The benefits of worst-case scenario planning include:
It encourages pro-activity and solution-building, especially critical in the “crises get worse before they get better” loop
It helps you anticipate reactions/responses to your decisions/actions
It helps to uncover opportunities
You are thinking about potential worst case scenarios differently right now. This presents an opportunity to improve.
Why are you thinking about worst case scenarios differently right now? Because how we think is dependent on context and, sadly, the current context is unparalleled in our lifetimes for thinking about what can go wrong.
To use a familiar (but still rather cool!) visual demonstration:
Is the orange circle on the right larger? You may well be thinking that because of the context, but in fact it isn’t.
Our mental models have a similar bias. So it might follow that when we are surrounded by success and things going well, our ability to deeply think about things going badly is biased – we are not very good at it.
On the flip side, when things are not going so well, we have an opportunity to use that context bias to our advantage: Which means that right now your team is probably much better at worst case scenario planning than it normally is.
This is the perfect time to revisit your scenario planning and risk mapping and use your newly acquired mental model of the world to think hard about what are the biggest risks to your organization in the future. Almost certainly you were being too optimistic the last time you assessed your risks, use this chance to rebalance your planning.
When we at CS&A develop scenarios, we have the advantage of looking from the outside in and being deep into crisis management every day. There was one client not too long ago who told us that it was over the top to use a scenario where two independent crises happened simultaneously. Right now, that is exactly the sort of scenario you should be planning for.
We would be happy to help you in a virtual environment if you wish to seize this opportunity. We can assist with both individual consultations and virtual workshops on this topic.
Cathy Heeley is a Singapore-based associate with CS&A International. She has 15 years’ experience as a legal counsel working with a top tier Australian firm and 14 years’ experience working as an in-house legal counsel with Kraft Foods, Mondelez International, Croda and Syngenta covering Asia Pacific.